Top 10 Ways to Help Undergraduates Succeed in National Scholarship Competitions
1. Identify promising students early.
Identifying students anytime from freshmen through junior year (based on expected graduation date) will give them the most opportunities to apply for national scholarships. Seniors and alumni also have opportunities, but fewer, depending on their plans.
Those students who have not only outstanding intellectual ability, but also the passion to apply their learning outside the classroom in various ways (research, community engagement, internships, study abroad, etc.).
Those students who are already demonstrating their leadership in various ways (within the department, campus community, other communities, etc.).
2. Refer undergraduate students to our office for advising about scholarships, other opportunities, and assistance with application processes.
providing them with ideas about ways they can further engage their interests.
4. Encourage them to apply for opportunities you think would be good fits for them.
Many students are too modest, or do not realize their own accomplishments/abilities and will not think to apply for scholarships or other opportunities without strong encouragement from mentors.
5. Consider opportunities beyond the traditional avenues for students in your field.
Though there may be a standard track that leads students into top graduate programs, there is always more than one way to reach the ultimate goal and students who are willing to consider alternative tracks will almost always be stronger graduate applicants, and students, for having those experiences.
Some national programs to consider along this line:
Rhodes Scholarship – provides 2-3 years of funding for graduate study in any field at Oxford.
6. Respond honestly when asked to write letters of recommendation.
If you cannot write a strong letter of recommendation for a student, please just say no. It is far better for the student to have to find another recommender than to spend weeks or months working on an application that will be doomed by a weak or unsupportive letter.
If you are able to write for the student, make sure your letter has a big impact on the selection committee by including concrete examples of how the student has demonstrated the qualities you describe. A tepid letter comes across to the reader just as badly as a negative letter, so the more specific you can be about the student, his/her background and accomplishments, preparation, proposal, etc., the better.